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The best way not to drown on Memorial Day: Wear a life jacket

No matter how many beers you kick back this Memorial Day, you're not turning into Aquaman. Wear a life jacket.

Local authorities are reminding county residents to have a fun and safe Memorial Day by wearing life jackets, preferably those that don't smell like a year's worth of mildew, out on the water. If the jackets have remained in the under-seat compartment of a boat since last Memorial Day, check on them. Make sure they're not disgusting. They could save you or your children's life.

Although life jackets are required only on moving boats for children younger than 13, everyone should consider the added dangers that come with throngs of boaters on the lake this weekend. 

Jody Gonzalez, the director of Denton County Emergency Management, puts it nicely: "There are a lot of different skill sets in people's ability to operate a boat. Being observant and having your safety equipment where it's accessible is a big thing."

So even if you're the finest boater of this generation, set a good example for your passengers and wear a life jacket.

Gonzalez said the jackets should, at the very least, be within reach when an emergency strikes. It doesn't do any good if the jackets are thrown around during a collision with a distracted, inexperienced boater.

"Especially if you have guests or people you've picked up, they don't know where your safety equipment is located either," he said.

The forecast for the holiday looks pleasant — mostly sunny with high temperatures in the mid 80s. But Gonzalez said the heat could lead to cramping and overall fatigue if people aren't properly hydrated (with water, not Coors Light).

That could become especially dangerous for ambitious swimmers.

"People going out too far and not anticipating how far it is or how deep it is — or getting cramps from how far you swim — is what causes a lot of our drowning situations," Gonzalez said.

Denton County Game Warden Jerry Norris said extra wardens will be on hand to patrol Ray Roberts Lake State Park, Lewisville Lake and Grapevine Lake. A few deputies with the Denton County Sheriff's Office will be patrolling Lewisville Lake, according to department spokesman Lt. Orlando Hinojosa.

Hinojosa also said authorities won't be shy about ticketing underage drinkers. 

"We want to make sure that everybody is safe and make sure that everybody has life jackets on board," he said.

JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882.

FEATURED PHOTO: Boaters enjoy the warm sunny weather on Lewisville Lake near the Lewisville Lake toll bridge during Memorial Day weekend last year. County officials are encouraging all boaters to wear life jackets as a safety precaution during this year's holiday weekend.
DRC file photo